Archive for September, 2010

central otago delivers

September 21, 2010  |  wine review  |  1 Comment

Sweet strawberry and cherry flavoured pinots from heaven! Consistently outstanding evocative pinots only come from Burgundy (if you spend over $150), or from the southern hemisphere’s pinot gift to the world….Central Otago in the south island of NZ, not far from Christchurch. OK, there are some good pinots from Victoria, Tasmania. Oregon, Marlborough and Martinborough, but in my view, nothing rivals Central Otago. The problem is the product is starting to get a reputation and some of the great wines can reach north of $75 a bottle.

When a value Otago comes onto the radar, it’s a cause for celebration. The story around this wine is even better. Made by Wild Rock wines, it was purchased from a retailer in Perth, yes Perth, (having been imported from NZ) and flown back to Sydney where it was landed for $22 a bottle (I know, it falls just outside my target $15 to $20 range, but it is a worthwhile exception). Cheapest I could find on the Eastern seaboard was $27 a bottle. The wine was purchased from the outstanding retail outlet Lamont’s Wine Store, run by Kate Lamont (Deputy Chair of Tourism Australia and celebrated chef, teacher, winemaker, restaurateur) and John Jens (a knowledgeable WA wine person who has been in the game for decades).

Wild Rock is a serious NZ winemaker with vineyards in Hawkes Bay, Martinborough and Central Otago. The pinot in question is the Wild Rock Cupid’s Arrow Pinot Noir 2008.

This wine looks a little like raspberry cordial…..which reminds me of the time I was in transit in the BA/Qantas first class Lounge in LA with Liz Hurley – just the two of us! She had poured a Rosemount Diamond label red for herself and I could see that she was struggling with it (and her hangover). Noticing a Mildara Coonawarra Cabernet on the shelf, I poured two and offered Liz a glass. She accepted, commenting that the first “is like Ribena isn’t it?” and that the Coonawarra was most welcome. There’s more to that story for friends over a glass of Wild Rock!

Despite appearances, this is no Ribena! It is a light, clean thin looking wine that fools grown men who think it’s a quaffer. My tasting notes follow:

“Clean strawberry fruit which is pleasant on the nose and highly approachable. To quote the back label, this is soft, succulent and delicious. The gorgeous sweet fruits become more complex in the glass with delightful savoury, mushroom and white pepper overtones. Lingering sweet berry fruit to the finish, with every mouthful more complex than the last. A cracker! 93/100 (no I don’t give every wine 93!) and 13.5% alcohol”

Get on the Lamonts web site and treat yourself to a case of the best value pinot going around….before it runs out!

organisational authenticity and meaning

organisational authenticity and meaning

Business bookshelves are groaning under the weight of single ideas padded out to 250 pages, recycled and repackaged messages and occasionally, some ground breaking insights. I recently read a book that falls into the last category – “ Meaning Inc. – the Blueprint for Business Success in the 21st century” by Gurnek Bains. Bains is founder and CEO of YSC, a corporate psychology consultancy with global offices.

This is not another “In Search of Excellence” or “Built to Last” – books that looked in the rear view mirror and reverse engineered the precursors of success. Many of their successful companies floundered. Bains, using the widespread research of YSC, has delivered a concept that is enduring and creates meaning for employees, customers and stakeholders. His premise is that bringing meaning into the workplace is the best way to motivate staff and achieve sustainable high performance, and uses a number of corporate examples on the journey.

Bains argues that the following attributes are present in companies who create meaning:

  • An invigorating sense of purpose that goes beyond business success and which makes people feel that they are changing society as opposed to servicing needs
  • The courage to set extremely challenging goals and to be ground breaking in the pursuit of the core purpose
  • An innovative approach to benefits and the treatment of people which makes them feel special
  • A culture that allows people to be themselves and to feel that they are personally making a difference and utilizing their distinct talents
  • A rigorous and at times almost aggressive approach to evaluating performance and contribution
  • Clear and authentically grounded values which are lived through thick and thin
  • A concern for the sider and particularly, the environmental and societal impacts of business activities
  • Through all the above, an excellent reputation with consumers and other political and social stakeholders
  • Excellent long term performance coupled with a preparedness to sacrifice short term gains if their achievement conflicts with the core purpose and values.

I must say that from recent experience, particularly working with people under 35, this series of prerequisites really resonates. It is all about being authentic. I have now shared this book with four CEO’s who all claim it has impacted significantly on their approach to their leadership and buy in from staff.

A clear sense of purpose and the leadership vision to set a course based on the Bains approach, depends on the CEO and her executive team. Once established, it has a much better chance of success if reinforced through measurement, something which will, in its own right, make a significant contribution to productivity and performance.

nugan – hands in many places

September 14, 2010  |  wine review  |  2 Comments

I must declare some self-interest in this column, as the owner of 12 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in Coonawarra. Since the early 60’s Coonawarra has developed a reputation as Australia’s Bordeaux – a cool climate area in which Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are particularly suited.

Some of the great wines – like the Parker Terra Rossa First Growths – can be quite expensive, so it’s always good to find a good value, accessible, quality wine like the Nugan 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Nugan is an interesting third generation “diversified” farming family company of Griffith origins. The family now boasts vineyards in the Riverina, King Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra (where they are recent entrants). It’s an interesting trend to see winemakers sourcing fruit from, and purchasing vineyards in, Australia’s cooler climate areas. Nugan’s neighbours de Bortoli, entered the Yarra Valley in the late 70’s and have made some stunning wines there.

Before reviewing the Cabernet, let me mention one other Nugan wine under their second label, Cookoothama (aboriginal for “fertile land”). The one I love is the Cookoothama 1997 Botrytis Semillon from Darlington Point (where my father in law took his mates from the Poacher’s Paradise on legendary fishing trips). This 375 ml wine costs about $20 and gives the famous de Bortoli Noble One, a run for its money. It has dried apricots and marmalade characters with luscious lingering length and a dry finish. Yum – a fantastic sticky to serve with  your favourite pudding!

Although the current vintage is 2007, The Nugan 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is still available at Vintage Cellars for between $15 and $20 with volume discounts. 2006 was one of the great vintages for reds in Coonawarra (just as 2007 was brilliant in Margaret River – an area giving Coonawarra a run for its money on Cabernets). My tasting notes follow:

Attractive, lifted berry nose with violets and chocolate overtones. The wine has a good acid fruit balance and should cellar for a few more years. Wild bramble berries, black currant and cassis on the palate, finishing with lovely soft tannins and lingering berry fruit. 14% alcohol. 93/100

Enjoy grazing for some other 2006 Coonawarra cabernets!

from garden of eden to world heritage

from garden of eden to world heritage

September 13, 2010  |  aborigines, travel tips and tales  |  2 Comments

I can’t believe that it has taken so long to experience Mungo National Park – one of the globally recognised treasures on the Australian landscape. Only an hour north of Mildura, Mungo National Park includes most of the ancient dry lake bed of Lake Mungo, one of a series of dry lake beds that make up the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area.

40,000 years ago, Mungo National Park was a Garden of Area teeming with wildlife. Now it’s a parched semi-desert with differential erosion unlocking the secrets of an ancient aboriginal culture dating back 50,000 years. Mungo is owned and operated by three tribal groups of aboriginal people who form a Group Elders Council – something of a model for other places – operating Mungo with Parks in a joint management agreement.

Each school holidays, one of the tribal groups – the Barkindjii, Mutthi Mutthi and Nyiampaa – run the excellent Discovery Tours guided tour program. Another commercial tour is run by Graeme Clark of Harry Nanya Tours. Harry’s story is legendary and may well become a film one day. Mungo certainly has incredible archaeological and geological significance, but the aboriginal stories going back tens of thousands of years provide the real meaning.

The relatively recent discovery of Mungo Lady and Mungo Man provides the most important human remains ever found in Australia. They were buried on the shore of Lake Mungo, beneath the ‘Walls of China’, a series of lunettes on the South eastern edge of the lake. Their discovery re-wrote the ancient story of this land and its people and sent shock-waves around the world. Three years after their re-discovery and intense scrutiny, the trackways were carefully covered over again with a bed of sand – the same sand that had protected the footprints from the elements for thousands of years. The tracks are so fragile and precious that they have to be protected from everybody, even researchers

These 42,000 year old ritual burials are some of the oldest remains of modern humans (Homo sapiens) yet found outside of Africa. Mungo Lady is the oldest known cremation in the world, representing the early emergence of humanity’s spiritual beliefs.

Mungo Lady and Mungo Man are particularly special to their Aboriginal descendants who still live around the Willandra Lakes area, as this quote from Nyiampaa Elder, Roy Kennedy demonstrates:

Coming to Mungo I get a different sense of feeling that I’m home. You seem to know when you’re back in your own Country. It’s not taught to you, it’s built in you. It’s in your soul, that that’s your Country”

Visitors can stay at Mungo Lodge, but I must say I was a little disappointed with the result after Indigenous Business Australia invested a lot of money in its refurbishment. The Lodge lacks soul and stories and is still an opportunity waiting to happen. The accommodation is pleasant but you could be anywhere else in Australia. The old Lodge used to come alive with campfires and stories. Let’s hope that is rekindled soon.

happiness - a journey not a destination

happiness – a journey not a destination

September 2, 2010  |  knowledge, life, main blog, motivation, philosophy  |  6 Comments

I’ve been in two minds about writing a blog on the complex subject of happiness – and couldn’t contain myself any longer. Happiness has become such an industry – over 300 million Google references, c0mplete sections in bookstores and a happiness or well-being conference accessible every couple of months. However, in the relentless pursuit of happiness, many people are making the mistake of treating it as a destination rather than a journey.

In this world of instant gratification, people want to find the answers. A bit like one of our children at high school…”Dad, I don’t want to know how to do the maths, I just want the answer”. The happiness answers can be complex and elusive. People suggest that the best starting point is picking the right parents. Possibly true – but unable to be altered.  It’s a state of mind, say some. Don’t worry – be happy! Some quotes on happiness that resonate with me include:

  • “A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.” — Helen Keller
  • “Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means you have decided to look beyond the imperfections.” –Unknown
  • “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”– Frederick Keonig

The last quote causes me to reflect on a trend I see around me. My generalization is that beyond a threshold level of income to meet living requirements, there is an inverse correlation between happiness and further wealth accumulation. Why? I guess because people run out of things to have, buy, use and as their lives have been focused on doing just that, become lost and unfulfilled.

From all I have read, there seem to be two things that seem to appear on every list as precursors for happiness. They are connectedness and generosity. Connectedness – played out through family, friends, organisations, netball teams, men’s sheds and so on, that engenders a sense of belonging. Generosity – that taps into that basic human need to give and care for others. Of course love embraces both connectedness and generosity.

On the next rung of common happiness precursors we find – being active (walking, running, dancing and being vital); taking notice (being aware of the beautiful, curious and unusual and relishing every moment); learning (challenging yourself to gain knowledge and mentally stretch); and gratitude. Joseph Krutch said, with perspicacity, “Happiness is itself a kind of gratitude”.

The Positive Psychology movement, pioneered by the eminent Martin Seligman, has much to offer around happiness. The movement is changing the emphasis of the profession from pathology and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength. If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of Seligman’s best seller “Authentic Happiness” Random House 2002. He argues that positive emotions generate strengths and that authentic happiness comes from identifying and cultivating your most fundamental strengths. It’s a powerful, potentially life changing book, one that has caused many to take the next step and enroll in Seligman’s  Master of Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

An alternative, useful for amateurs like me, is to ponder the messages in Positive Psychology Daily News – a free on-line service full of applications for daily life. On the subject of applications, from a sea of happiness apps for i phone, there are two that stand above the pack. One is Live Happy ($1.19) and the other a free app called Gratitude Journal. Both worth down loading from i tunes.

Anyway, the subject is interesting and exploring it makes me happy!

 Finally, a marvellous quote from Nataniel Hawthorne, ““Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you”.

an exciting shiraz from the great southern

September 1, 2010  |  wine review  |  No Comments

I’m so excited! Just found a wine that is the epitome of my blog objective. Great drinking, different and top value, in the $15 to $20 segment. The Plantagenet Omrah Shiraz 2006 is the new hero but it won’t be around for long. This one was found in Vintage Cellars at Mosman for $14 in a dozen lot. The current vintage, 2008, is a cracker as well and sells through cellar door at $18.

Plantagenet was the pioneer of the Great Southern area in the late 60′s. The neareast settlement is Mt Barker (which they named a famous subterranean clover variety after) about 350km south of Perth. As we sort out our variety- area strengths in this young Australian industry, Shiraz appears to be to the Great Southern as Cabernet Sauvignon is to Margaret River. Plantagenet is now owned by Lionel Samson and Son, a wine distributor that is exporting as well as distributing nationally. The Omrah is their second label, supported by the emerging Rocky Horror and Rosetta vineyards.

My tasting notes follow:

Attractive sweet plums and cherries on the nose with a delightful mouthful of lifted fruit. Some pleasant rhubarb acidity giving way to sweet sappy savoury tannins with a lingering spicy finish. A wonderful food wine which opens up in the glass. 14.0% alcohol. 93/100, Fantastic value – grab some while you can!